A top aide to Donald Trump was secretly re-engaged by a leading political strategy firm after being forced to step down after a social media scandal, the Guardian can reveal. The company, Washington-based Teneo, wanted access to top Republicans in the then president’s inner circle, and to conceal his ongoing work.
Jason Miller – who remains close to Trump, and who today serves as a senior adviser to the former president – also later appears to have misled a Florida court about this employment status, asserting in a sworn statement that he could no longer comply with a court order requiring him to pay child-support payments because of an alleged “major financial setback” and was effectively out of work.
Miller cited his termination as a reason he could not meet court-mandated payments – even though he had secretly agreed to a new contract with Teneo that meant doing the same work for the same fee.
Miller resigned as a managing editor of Teneo, the powerhouse corporate advisory firm, on 21 June 2019, after posting a series of obscenity-laced tweets about Democratic congressman Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House judiciary committee.
“I have parted ways with Teneo by mutual consent and look forward to … my next move,” Miller said in a statement he provided to the New York Times and other news outlets.
But Miller’s departure from Teneo was a sham. Previously undisclosed confidential records from inside Teneo show that on the same day Miller signed a formal “separation agreement and general release” from Teneo, he signed a new contract with the firm, whereby Teneo agreed to secretly engage Miller as a consultant, through a hastily formed LLC, at the very same base compensation of nearly $500,000 doing the very same work.
The maneuver adroitly allowed Teneo to let Miller continue working for them, during a time when the largely Democratic firm was eager to develop closer relations with the Trump White House – while also not having to pay the reputational and public relations costs of openly associating with Miller and others in the administration.
Only three days after his resignation and the signing of his new employment agreement with Teneo for the same base pay, according to state court records in Miami-Dade county, Florida, Miller asked the court to “abate and modify” his support payments and swore he could no longer make his child support payments because the “petitioner’s unemployment is public knowledge”.
In 2016, when Miller, who was married, was the Trump presidential campaign’s chief spokesperson, he engaged in an extramarital affair with AJ Delgado, a fellow adviser to the campaign, resulting in the two of them having a child together.
The Florida court records show that Miller made other misleading or false statements under oath in the case of his faux firing in multiple instances. He not only falsely portrayed himself as unemployed, but asserted under oath that he could no longer afford to travel to Florida to attend court hearings related to the case, and asked a trial in the matter be postponed until he could find work. As evidence of his supposed “major financial setback” Miller cited newspaper articles reporting his resignation from the firm.
Miller’s claims of pecuniary misfortune were effectively fiction – he had never really lost his job or any of his income. In fact, transitioning from one position to the other for Miller arguably created a financial windfall for him. Miller received $90,000 in severance pay from his first position as he transitioned to his new one, the confidential Teneo records indicate, while also not missing a single paycheck from his Teneo work because his new engagement began on the very next day.
Under Miller’s new agreement, which the Guardian was able to review, Teneo agreed to pay Miller’s wholly-owned LLC close to $500,000 a year for his services, the same base salary he had been receiving as a managing partner of Teneo.
To facilitate his ability to be paid, Miller, with Teneo’s approval, agreed to set up his own firm, a Delaware corporation or LLC, named SHW partners, according to Delaware state records.
In fact, Delaware state records show that Miller’s new LLC was not officially formed until more than a full month after Miller signed the new contract.
In a statement Miller said: “When my employee/employer relationship with Teneo was severed, I faced the loss of … income due to lost bonuses and benefits. This financial setback greatly reduced my income.”
He also denied he had misled the Florida court or ever attempted to shirk his responsibilities to take care of his son: “I take my parental responsibilities seriously.” He further asserted that he had paid “over $100,000 in total temporary child support, which supports the entire household, even though I am not required to support his mother”.
Teneo declined to comment when approached multiple times by the Guardian.
The new disclosures arise at a time when Miller, who was a senior political strategist in Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, has come to play an increasing role in Trump’s post-presidency life, and frequently acts as spokesperson for Trump.
In the midst of the 2020 presidential campaign, in late June last year, the political reporter Mike Allen of Axios described Miller as “Trump whisperer” who was adept at reading “Trump’s verbal cues, and knows how to use gossip and news to get Trump’s thinking about different issues” before translating “Trump-speak into campaign action”.
While the vast majority of advisers to Trump during his presidency have moved on – some because Trump is no longer president and now has a threadbare staff, and others because they want to distance themselves from Trump after his incitement of the insurrection at the Capitol – Miller has exploited that void to position himself even closer to Trump.
Miller, who is intensely loyal to Trump, has had harsh words for former colleagues who have publicly repudiated Trump after the insurrection.
“They’re bottom-feeders who are showing their true colors,” Miller said. “The Democrats are still going to hate them, [and] the Trump base is going to hate them for being a rat jumping ship.”
It was the same sort of loyalty to Trump that led to his faux firing from Teneo in June 2019. Mistakenly believing that Nadler had disrespected then White House communications director Hope Hicks, Miller, in a Twitter tirade, called Nadler, among other things, “fat and nasty”, “gross”, “Mr Muffin Top” and a “scumbag”. The tweets were laced with obscenities.
Teneo’s senior officials thought the spat was detrimental to its public image, leading to the firm’s feigned severing ties with Miller.
Teneo is best known for its ties to the Democratic establishment. It was largely the creation of Doug Band, who became a top aide to former president Bill Clinton after leaving the White House. Bill and Hillary Clinton later severed their ties with Band, alleging Band and Teneo had exploited Band’s previously close relationship with both of them for his personal gain.
With the election of Trump, Teneo found itself without anyone at the firm with close ties to Trump or his administration – hence the value it put on retaining Miller’s services, including after his fight with Nadler.
For Miller, his new position as a managing director for Teneo was a lucrative default: after Trump was elected president, Miller was named to be White House communications director. But after disclosures of the extramarital affair with Delgado, Miller withdrew his name to serve in the new administration.
Subsequently, Miller also admitted numerous other sexual encounters with escorts and prostitutes in the course of a failed libel action against the website Gizmodo. He also admitted in that failed suit an affair with an adviser to Republican senator Ted Cruz, whose presidential campaign Miller had earlier worked on.
Miller told the Guardian that he regrets such past conduct and is now working to be a better man: “Every day I work to make myself a better husband and father, and by God’s grace I have been given another opportunity to make my family proud again.
But Miller’s agreement to keep his new status at Teneo hidden quickly ran into legal problems from his private life.
On 27 June, only three days after Miller signed his new contract with Teneo, Miller filed a sworn statement in the court that he “has had a substantial change in financial circumstances. At the time, the petitioner (Miller) was in a much better financial position than he is today.”
As a result of this, Miller sought from a court a reduction in the amount he had to pay in child support. He told the court: “Since temporary support is subject to modification … [Miller] is requesting that the child support he currently is paying be abated and the amount of his child support obligation be substantially modified.”
Miller signed the statement directly below a line which read: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing verified motion to abate and modify temporary child support and the facts stated in it are true.”
At the time, Miller was also scheduled to fly to Miami to give a deposition in the case that 2 July. Miller now claimed that he could not afford to do so: “Unfortunately, the petitioner has just sustained a major financial setback that has caused a major setback in his professional and personal life.”
On 15 July 2019, Miller filed another motion in court, in which he asserted under oath he “does not have the financial ability to meet [his] child support”.
Citing his purported unemployment, Miller also sought to have the trial scheduled to hear the case be postponed, claiming that “he does not have the financial wherewithal to proceed”.
And in yet another motion filed that same day, Miller claimed he no longer had the “financial ability” to pay Delgaldo’s legal bills, as he had been required by the court to pay.
To demonstrate that he was out of work, Miller cited news articles falsely reporting he had resigned from Teneo. “The petitioner’s unemployment is public knowledge,” Miller wrote in one filing. Left unsaid was that these news reports were the result of reporters having been misled by Miller.